Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Families for Orphans Act

The Need

UNICEF estimates that there are 132 million orphans in the world today. Millions of these orphans are growing up on the streets or in institutions where they don't receive the love, attention, education or medical care they need to develop into healthy, productive adults. The evidence shows that placing an orphaned child into a permanent and loving family is perhaps the best way to ensure that they have the love, attention, and care needed not only to survive, but to thrive. While the United States Government has several programs that offer support for the urgent physical needs of orphans, very little of the focus and funding is going toward finding permanent families for children in need of parental care. At the same time, developing countries lack the resources and expertise necessary to develop sound systems to provide for the care of the rising number of orphaned children.

A review of current federal programs suggests that there are at least three barriers standing in the way of the United States being a leader in providing a family for every child. First, current U.S. funded orphans programs are disorganized and disconnected, neglect the needs of millions of children, and impose a wide variety of different policies and priorities, creating in some cases mutually exclusive strategies. Secondly, officers working to address the needs of orphans lack the authority, visibility and resources needed to make a real difference in this area. Finally, fully addressing the needs of orphans requires the U.S. advise and support other countries in the development of child welfare systems that offer permanency for orphaned children and the fact is the current infrastructure is not set up to engage in this level of diplomacy.

The Solution

The Families for Orphans Act (HR 3070; S 1458) proposes to overcome these barriers by establishing the Office of Orphan Policy, Diplomacy and Development, a specialized office within the U.S. Department of State. Headed by a specially appointed Coordinator, this new Office would be responsible for developing and implementing a comprehensive, evidence-based strategy to support the preservation of families and the provision of permanent families for orphans.

In addition, the Families for Orphans Act would:

* Create a Policy Coordinating Committee to help better coordinate interagency efforts on behalf of orphaned children.

* Grant support for non-governmental organizations that are providing technical assistance to and support for foreign governments' family preservation and permanent parental care programs.

* Provide funding for countries to use to develop and meet minimum standards in family preservation, reunification and the provision of permanent parental care for orphans.

* Launch the "Global Best Practices Pilot Program" to discover and replicate best practices.


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